These days mediation is not only used for divorces and separations, but is also a useful resource for agreeing on a co-habitation or marriage agreement.

Many people feel uneasy about signing an agreement prior to moving in together or getting married.  Rightfully so, afterall the goal is to make this a life long commitment.  Unfortunately, it does not always turn out to be a "happily ever after" fairy tale.

It is prudent for each party to protect themselves and define the roles of the relationship clearly.

A co-habitation or marriage agreement may address such issues as the day-to-day terms of living together, how assets and debts will be divided, who gets what should the relationship terminate.  It may also include a clause stating that should the relationship end, the couple must use a family mediator as a neutral third party to facilitate a resolution and assist the parties in resolving and making difficult decisions.

Mediation is extremely helpful to those in the midst of negotiating a co-habitation or marriage agreement.  The point is to make it a non-adversarial process.  The fact that the parties are even discussing an agreement is extremely sensitive, and one or both parties feel like the other party does not trust them or the relationship, and that is why they are doing an agreement to begin with.

A mediator can help the parties negotiate and communicate effectively, and ultimately reach an agreement both parties are comfortable and content with.  It is a joint-effort, where both parties work together, with the mediator's direction, to express their individual concerns and expectations of the relationship, and what should happen should the relationship not work out the way they had anticipated.  Mediation would also save the parties a substantial amount of money, that would otherwise be spent on hiring lawyers.

With each party going to their own independent lawyer, it puts a bitter spin on the process, and the parties feel like they are pitted against one another.  This definitely should not be the case.  Keeping the lines of communication open, positive dialogue and having the parties make their own decisions is imperative.  The parties should be going into co-habitation or marriage with a positive and healthy outlook, not doom and gloom.

The parties would still require the assistance of lawyers to review what the parties have agreed on and draft the proper agreement.  Receiving independent legal advice is an imperative part of the process, however, the mediator assists greatly by establishing expectations put forth by each party, helping the parties discuss the issues, and coming to a resolution that would be put into a Memorandum of Understanding and provided to each respective lawyer.

Written by Marian Grande, Mediator
AUGUST 24, 2020

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